Mel Blanc's mountain respite still sits on Big Bear Lake -- a town he made famous in song and which deemed him honorary mayor for more than 30 years. His son Noel and Noel's wife Katherine live there now. I visited them on their wedding anniversary last June. Parts of the house pay museum-y tribute to Mel's genius.
I wish I'd brought a better camera to Big Bear Lake. The majestic vistas in the distance, as you drive east from LA, are enough to make you gasp (as is the altitude -- Big Bear sits at 6,750 feet). Sadly, I only had my puny camera phone. The phone part was vastly more important though. Even with GPS, it's easy to get lost on the way to the house that Mel Blanc built here in 1936. So Noel, Mel's son and keeper of his legacy, "talked me in" once the serpentine mountain highway spat me onto a local road. Chez Blanc sits on the lake proper. Mel used to yank fish out of that water. Once upon a time, Mel, Noel and Elvis Presley motored out in a boat together and happened upon Roy Rogers motoring toward them. Needless to say, there's a pile of history in that spot. And much of it is immortalized in photos, in trinkets...even in a mural in Noel and Katherine's bedroom, depicting a cartoon Mel posing with the bunny that brought him into nearly every American household.
Toward the back of the house is the presidential wall, replete with pictures and letters from Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bush the Elder. But, for whatever reason, Mel liked to keep most of his photos in a tiny bathroom near the entrance. They're still there, including this immortalization of his zany grin beside an NBC microphone.
But to get a true appreciation of Mel Blanc's versatility, check out this interview with David Letterman (embedded here from YouTube) circa 1981. Mel was about the same age that Noel is now.
Sean Cole came to Radiolab from the American Public Media program Marketplace where he reported on everything from the rental market in Dubai to a new type of hand gel laced with nicotine. He’s done stories for lots of different public radio programs including All Things Considered, Only a Game, Studio 360 and This American Life where he’s also worked on staff. Sean got his start at the Boston NPR-affiliate WBUR as a newsroom intern. He spent nine years there, ending up as a reporter and producer for the award-winning documentary series Inside Out. He writes poems, some of which have been published. And, yes, he wrote this bio.